When we truly see people for who they are, not what they cannot do, we are given a rare gift. Utilizing “Flood Light Thinking,” seeing the whole situation or person, versus “Spot Light Thinking,” only focusing in on a problem that needs fixed, gives us permission to try new experiences for people with disabilities.
On a typical workweek day, Cheryl Binegar, service and support administrator for the Fayette County Board of Developmental Disabilities, went to do a routine home visit with the family of Tyler Roland. Tyler is an 11-year-old child with autism. He is a very intelligent young man who doesn’t communicate with words and can find it difficult to understand the sensory environment around him.
In the past, this caused him to become aggressive and not want to socialize outside of the home. During the meeting with his mother, Terea Hatfield shared with Cheryl that she was overwhelmed with Tyler’s situation. She expressed that their family has several children and that they are unable to enjoy out of the home activities because it is too overstimulating for Tyler. Getting out of the house and enjoying something together seemed unobtainable.
After discussing what Tyler loves, it was discovered that being in water is one of his favorite pastimes. Since the family has a fixed budget, it wasn’t realistic for them to pay for private swimming lessons for Tyler. After discussing options, it was decided Cheryl would apply for the family to receive a YMCA membership as well as private swimming lessons for Tyler through Cluster. Cluster is a branch of the Family and Children First Council that supports needs in our community for children with disabilities and other specialized requests. It originally was thought that while Tyler was enjoying the pool, the rest of the family could work out and enjoy the YMCA. The request was approved, and once the family started going regularly to the YMCA, they were greatly impacted.
Terea reported that her and her husband have lost 80 pounds collectively! It has renewed a spark in their marriage and they feel like they are dating again after being together for almost a decade. She said all the children in the home are loving this healthy outlet and the atmosphere that the YMCA provides as well.
Probably the largest success in this story is with Tyler himself. He realized that he enjoyed other areas of the YMCA, not just the pool. He passed the preteen screening to participate in a personal training program so that he could lift weights, use the treadmill and any equipment he chose. His family started to see drastic changes in him once he was assigned his personal trainer, Marlin Ellis.
Marlin is a physical education teacher at Washington City Schools and also a personal trainer at the YMCA. When Tyler met Marlin, he found someone that saw past his limitations and disability and saw what he can do. Tyler’s mother reports that Tyler is now off of all medications and that the gym has given him a healthier outlet for his aggression. Life isn’t perfect, but his mother reports that he has improved drastically! Tyler has been able to improve greatly at school and focus on his work. The benefit of the gym lasts long after the training sessions have ended.
The largest impact has come from his relationship with Marlin, the personal trainer. Terea says, “All the other benefits of the YMCA have been great, but my favorite thing is that Marlin treats Tyler just like he would any other person he would train. That means a lot to me as a mother.”
Having Tyler as a part of his community, outside of the walls of his disability is what we hope will happen for all people in this community. I think Mother Teresa said it best: “I can do things you cannot, you can do things I cannot; together we can do great things.
For more information about any of the programs and services provided by Fayette County Board of DD, visit www.fayettedd.com or call 740-335-7453.